A bit late to do a “new term” post, really, but I haven’t had many chances to pause for breath!
We started off with two teacher days, as normal, including training on child protection/safeguarding and “British Values”. I was glad to find I’m not the only one who has issues with the “British” part – to me what we are talking about are civilised values – tolerance, rule of law, democracy etc – and are certainly not something to which we can lay any sort of exclusive claim. “British” would be if we were going to teach how to talk about the weather, or complain about public transport, or debate “love” or “hate” of marmite.
As well as training, we had time in departments to sort out admin, discuss plans for the year, analyse exam successes and disappointments etc. My timetabling colleague and I also had assorted things to do – changing options for a number of sixth formers, doing a bit of rearranging for a colleague having a staged return to work, trying to get our shiny new two-week timetable system for sixth form to print out in a sensible fashion…
When we actually get the kids back, the first thing that always hits me is the noise! I am not what you’d call a noise-sensitive person – at one point I lived on both the South Circular and Concord flight path – but the kids on their first day seem an order of magnitude worse!
It always takes a while to actually get back in the swing of teaching as well. I’ve got quite a few “new to me” classes this year, though fortunately all in the sixth form. One’s interesting – I taught most of the members of it for chemistry last year, but have them for further maths this year – it can be surprising how students differ in different contexts. I’m also doing a bit of A-level Physics for the first time – though only maths for physics, and the materials part, which (in my opinion) is as much engineering and chemistry as it is physics! In contrast, seeing my Year 11s (who I’ve taught since Year 7) feels pretty relaxing! They’re a lovely class, and I have quite an informal relationship with them; it’s lovely to see them again and hear a bit about their holidays. For most classes, it only takes a few days to get to know them as a group (knowing individuals takes longer), and for them to relax as well as me. Cake rotas being organised seems to be an important part of this!
One class I’m really going to enjoy this year is the Upper Sixth “Extension” chemistry lesson. This is aimed at all those wanting to study the subject at university, or with an interest in taking it further. It is lovely to be able to pick and choose my material with no constraints regarding exam syllabuses, to target it entirely on things that will make the students think and question, and to teach all volunteers!
As well as the teaching, we have the inevitable round of requests for help with UCAS personal statements, attempts to negotiate higher predicted grades (wouldn’t mind so much if the kids knew it was just a paper exercise, but for some reason, pupils often seem to think that if they can con a member of staff in to predicting them an A*, that means they’ll get one….), last minute angst about course and university choice…
Aarghh, I want half term!